Summary by Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor.
Summary: Maori Party leader Tariana Turia has called for secret information held by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service against Ahmed Zaoui to be tested before High Court Judges. She drew parallels between how Zaoui has been imprisoned without charge and injustices forced on Te Whiti.
Ahmed Zaoui has been imprisoned in New Zealand without charge for almost two years after the NZSIS issued a security risk certificate against him. A review of the risk certificate has been stalled due to Crown court applications seeking to ban human rights aspects of Mr Zaoui’s case from being considered during the review process.
The Refugee Status Appeals Authority deemed Mr Zaoui a legal and rightful refugee on August 1 2003.
Tariana Turia’s move has signalled to the Government that the Maori Party will campaign for human rights not only on Maori issues but for all who may face injustice at the hands of The Crown.
Her position was delivered during ‘The Taranaki Address’ at Rangiatea Campus; New Plymouth, Taranaki during Declaration of Independence Day Celebrations on October 28 2004.
The portion of Tariana Turia’s speech follows:
Tariana Turia Speech: I come to individual human rights. For Maori, no place can be more worthy as a forum for the human rights debate than here in Taranaki. The need for vigilance is apparent from Taranaki history.
Here in 1882, the great missionary for peace, Te Whiti was arrested on the grounds that he was a threat to the security of the country. It was said there were terrorists about.
The extraordinary West Coast Protection Act 1882 was passed by which Te Whiti was held, without charge or trial, and was imprisoned on a remote island.
The Crown has since acknowledged it was wrong. But it is well said that those who do not learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat it. I submit to you that now, that has happened.
In December 2002, Ahmed Zaoui, claiming like Te Whiti to be a political missionary for peace, sought sanctuary in this country, having death warrants over his head from an oppressive regime. There is strong reason to believe that his claim is correct.
For nearly six months the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, comprised of lawyers, inquired into the full circumstances of his case and his history overseas. The Authority cleared him of terrorist associations. It declared him a legitimate refugee.
But the Government had other plans. Under recent legislation, uncannily like the West Coast Peace Preservation Act, he is held as a security risk and kept in prison. He has been held there for almost two years.
He has been denied access to a full statement of why he is held, because the information is classified.
His fate will be decided by an Executive which is necessarily influenced by political and economic considerations. That was precisely the case with Te Whiti. He was denied access to the courts. The parallels are strong.
And like Te Whiti, he will be disposed of without charge – without trial. Some have tried to make the Zaoui case an immigration issue. It is not. It is about human rights.
Some have said it is not our business because this is war time. But that was said also of Te Whiti as people washed their hands of responsibility.
So understand this. The Maori Party stands for Justice, for Maori and for all. We seek an honest country, for the sake of Maori, and for the sake of everybody. We are not here just to define ourselves but to define the country.
I support the call of Amnesty International that Zaoui should have a fair trial, with public exclusion only in respect of those parts of the evidence that the Judges find necessary for national security. I seek your licence to take this position so in honour of the memory of Te Whiti o Rongomai.
Those are my reasons for standing here today in support of a written Constitution and a strengthened Bill of Rights.
I do so mindful of our forbears, tangata whenua and Pakeha, who recognised the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi.
I share their vision of a society where both peoples would have status and respect.
I seek the framework for a just society where our children can grow tall and be united, educated, honest, enterprising and inspired.
I stand for honesty and integrity in all things. I ask that you stand with me in support of human rights and a New Zealand Constitution.
Now, I have in my hand my own personal cheque. For $300, one for each of the Taranaki feathers. I am sending it to Amnesty International in support of their call for a fair trial. If you wish to add to it, please come and see me.